How to Get More Space From Less Space – Factors Offsetting Having Less Real Estate

Collaborative Solution-Meeting Room by ET Group

In our last blog, “Do you lack Meeting Room Space? Without Exception, Every Company or Agency I Speak with has This Problem”, we highlight two trends that work against the availability of meeting space:

  1. Companies are reducing their real estate footprint (less space = less rooms).
  2. Organizations do not effectively use the rooms they have.

The good news is there are ways to combat both of these negatively compounding trends that lead to a lack of meeting space by getting more space from less space and making more effective use of meeting rooms. This blog explores 6 solutions for increasing meeting space capacity, even if you are reducing your real estate footprint.

How to get “more space” from “less space”:

1. Reduce your “I” space and increase your  “We” space – More Flexible Space

Steelcase: 360 Magazine
Steelcase: 360 Magazine

You have probably seen more people meet in “open concept” areas or hunker down in a corner of a ‘Café’ area to get some work done – a touchdown space.  This is one of the main trends where the old cubical farms of the Dilbert era (‘I’ space) are being replaced with an appropriate balance of meeting space (‘We’ space) and workspace for people who still work at their desk in the office all day.

This transformation saves real estate space and supports the move to a flexible work place, where employees spend a significant part of their workweek either on the road or working from a home office. The best part is that people actually like working in these spaces more than in traditional office environments.

More ‘We’ space means more formal and informal meeting space.

2. Virtual meetings, or Meetings in the Cloud

Most of us experienced our first virtual meeting as a telephone conference call where no one was actually sitting in a meeting room. This very concept has extended to web conferencing, video conferencing and interactive whiteboard conferencing – different conferencing modalities.  The more conferencing modalities included in a virtual meeting, the richer the meeting experience.  In fact, you can make it just as good as being there if you do it right.

And physical meeting space is not required for virtual meetings. People can participate from anyplace as long as they have a connection.

“Progressive companies like BT and Oracle have proven there are business benefits that stem from having a flexible work system in place. BT, for example, cites absenteeism reduced by 63% among flexible employees. Steelcase Solutions, which supports flexible start/finish times and home working, boasts an employee retention rate that’s 35% better than the UK average.” Steelcase, 360 Research

4 ways to more effectively use your meeting rooms:

1. Room Scheduling Systems

Scheduling systems are all about managing your meeting space with the primary goal of maximizing the availability of the space for meeting.  Many organizations have evolved from a paper based or person based scheduling of the room(s) to giving the room it’s own calendar in  Exchange, Notes or another office system. This is the first important step in making the room available to people in your organization to schedule and maximizing the utilization of the space.

Automated scheduling can go much further and provide greater benefit to your organization if you take additional steps each having associated benefits:

  • Have panels linked to the room calendar so you can display the status of the room schedule to anyone standing outside the room
  • Allow people to book the room from the panels mentioned above
  • Release the room automatically for availability if the people who booked the room don’t show up for the meeting
  • Tie the scheduling system into automation rules to maximize the room use, efficiency of power utilization and enable faster meeting start up.  This enhances sustainability efforts and productivity, e.g. If people have cancelled a meeting but still have the room booked, the room will sense that no one is using the booked room, after 15 mins the room will automatically become available and any powered on systems will be shut down
  • Tie in to catering if applicable in your organization

We will write a future blog about Scheduling systems to provide further insight on this topic.

2. Enabling Faster Meeting Start Times

How many minutes on average are lost getting a meeting going in your organization?

Seriously, think about how long it takes to get have the right equipment in the room to support the meeting? How long does it take to get it going?  How long does it take to connect remote participants?  How long does it take to open supporting material for the meeting?  I am not even considering things that would be categorized under proper ‘meeting etiquette’ which also impact start times.

All these items can impact the start time of a meeting from a couple of minutes to 15+ minutes.  If you compound that over the number of meetings you have over the year, you might be shocked at the financial impact.

Formula for Calculating the Cost of Wasted Meeting Start Time

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 10.23.19 AM

An example: 10 rooms x   5 mtgs/day/rm x  225 days/yr  x   (4 people x $100/hr) x (5 mins/60mins) = $375,000 / year

And this is just the people cost; the formula doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of effectively using the meeting room space.

You can apply technology to help you with this problem in a number of ways:

  • Automatically fire up the room and have it ready to go prior to the meeting start time via an advanced scheduling system
  • Make the technology in the room easy to use (more on this below)
  • Have relevant meeting documents ready in advance of the meeting start time.  Advanced Unified Communications and Collaboration systems (UC&C), tie the ‘In Room” technology to your UC platform.  So the meeting starts with all relevant documents available in the meeting calendar entry which also happens to reside on the ‘In Room” technology.  An example of this is SMART Technologies integration with Microsoft Lync

3. Faster Meeting Wrap Up – Automate Meeting Minutes

One of the biggest items that technology can help resolve is faster meeting wrap up.  And the impact can be significant if you add the minutes per day that are wasted by all your employees on this item.

This item resonates strongest where a flipchart or whiteboard is used to capture discussion points during a meeting.  If you have a really good note taker, which most people – including myself, are not, then this may not be applicable, but capturing the discussion and the break-through thinking is critical.

Some people take a picture of the whiteboard and circulate that to the meeting participants, but this solution sounds great however in practice is not very effective.

An easy-to-use interactive whiteboard (IWB) that works with common applications can put you leaps ahead and SMART Technologies SMART Boards are the leaders in this space. Unlimited meeting notes (no matter how many pages) can be sent instantly at the close of the meeting and all participants will receive them as they walk out of the meeting room.  Those notes can be saved as a PowerPoint, Adobe PDF or other file type and filed appropriately for use in the future.

This ‘meeting wrap up’ feature alone has justified the cost of an IWB for some orgs.  It has also freed up static whiteboard space with the infamous ‘PLO’ – Please Leave On allowing the next meeting to use the boards without worrying about loss of information.

Faster meeting wrap up also means that the prior meeting is not overflowing into the next meeting’s time slot.

4. Technology Makes The Room Systems Easier to Use

This is a topic onto itself, but at a very simple level, people compare being able to use a control system for a meeting room to an app on their iPad.  And they expect it to be as easy to use as an iPad app.

That expectation may not be realistic, but it is real.

Why isn’t it realistic?

The control system for a meeting room is connected to all the different components in the room – projectors, screens, AV components, lights, cameras, speakers, mics, etc.  These systems just don’t turn on and off as quickly or as easily as an iPad app reacts to your touch.

The control pad user interfaces have evolved significantly, just like any other technology but until very recently the best you could get, looked like a large remote control for your TV with way more function and capability.  For a user exposed to this ‘Remote Control on steroids’, it is too much to be able to quickly digest leading to user frustration.

But the expectation remains real so designers and programmers try to:

“As the nature of work rapidly changes, the best companies aren’t waiting. Instead, they’re claiming win-win opportunities by embracing flexible work now versus later. Looking ahead, they realize that’s how the grand game of business is going to be played best.” – Steelcase, 360 Research

  • Simplify the interface and limit some of the functional control available to the user
  • Employ GUI design principles as best the technology will allow them to
  • Mimic the control panel on the user’s iPad so they get the comfort of controlling the room from a device they are familiar with
  • Use the latest control panel technologies for true ‘drag and drop’ user designs (this is a big step forward but only just entering the market)

Needless to say, the easier the room technologies are to control, the more efficient the use of meeting time will be realized.  The technology control just blends into the background, which is what the design objective should be.

Many of the solutions discussed above are all pieces of an overall strategy required to manage your real time collaborative solutions.  Contact us to learn more or to get some help in any particular area.

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